More than 6 drinks a week puts your health at risk

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Are Canadians Drinking too much?
Are Canadians Drinking too much?

According to the new Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health, 3–6 standard drinks a week represents a moderate risk to your health. After that, the more you drink, the more you increase your risk of seven types of cancer, most types of cardiovascular diseases, liver disease and violence. The guidance recommends no more than 2 drinks a day (per occasion). The bottom line is that, when it comes to alcohol and your health, less is better.

Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Cancer Society, Andrea Seale, agreed, saying, “Canadians need to know there are serious health risks associated with drinking alcohol, including elevated risk of multiple types of cancer. Many Canadians are unaware that alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, and most don’t realize they are drinking unsafe amounts. This guidance is so important because it clarifies that the less alcohol you drink, the lower your cancer risk.”

Replacing the 2011 Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, the new guidance supports people in making informed decisions about their health. It meets people where they are at and gives them an opportunity to evaluate their drinking patterns.

To help illustrate the risks, the guidance presents a continuum of risk associated with drinking alcohol, allowing people to decide for themselves where they are comfortable being on that continuum. Basically, the more you drink, the higher your risk. The report suggests that:

  • 1–2 standard drinks per week is low risk,
  • 3–6 standard drinks per week is a moderate risk and
  • 7 or more standard drinks per week is an increasingly high risk.
  • No matter where you are on that continuum of alcohol use, for your health, less is better.
  • If you’re going to drink, don’t exceed more than 2 drinks on any day.
  • When pregnant or trying to get pregnant, there is no known safe amount of alcohol.

“People have a right to know this information. The concept of a continuum of risk puts power in people’s hands to make their own informed decisions,” said Alexander Caudarella, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). Caudarella, who is also a family physician specializing in substance use, continued, “The evidence is clear that every drink counts. It’s also clear that it’s never too late to make changes. Any reduction in alcohol use can be beneficial. Health professionals can now better determine an individual’s risk and collaborate with their patients to improve their health.”

The two-year research project, led by CCSA, looked at nearly 6,000 peer-reviewed studies and involved an expert panel of 23 scientists representing 16 organizations. The guidance incorporates findings from focus groups and three consultations with the public and stakeholders. The most recent public consultation received nearly 1,000 survey submissions, all of which were diligently evaluated to ensure the guidance is clear and practical for those using it, including physicians, counsellors, community workers, policy makers and the public.

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